India look to salvage pride
Wednesday, November 11
Start time 14.30 local time (09.00GMT)
For India, it's a bleak and depressing one. Three successive losses have cost them the series against a patchwork-quilt Australian side. Despite an appalling injury list, Australia have managed to hold their nerve at key moments. India have lapsed back into 1990s mode, with stellar individual performances like Sachin Tendulkar's 175 in Hyderabad expected to paper over collective weakness. That hasn't happened, and the pre-series hype of going for the No.1 ranking now sounds pathetic.
For the second series in a row at home, they head to Mumbai, the heartland of Indian cricket, with the cause hopelessly lost. Back in 2007, Zaheer Khan and Murali Kartik pulled off a late show to give the scoreline (4-2) a slightly more respectable look, and that's as much as India can aspire to at the DY Patil Stadium. As for Australia, having won the Champions Trophy and now swatting aside the challenge of one of their big rivals away from home, this is a happy time, an occasion to revel in the success of a system that can produce stand-ins like Doug Bollinger and Clint McKay. Even with half the first team back home nursing injuries and niggles, they've been far too good.
Form guide(last five completed matches, most recent first)
India - LLLWW
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Sachin Tendulkar: That dazzling century at Hyderabad aside, he has contributed just 100 in five innings. This, though, is a special game, the first time he'll be playing in front of his home crowd since the terror attacks in Mumbai a year ago. Some of his greatest innings against Australia have come in Mumbai (twin fifties in the Test in 2001, and 90 in the World Cup of 1996), but they never resulted in Indian wins. He'll be desperate to change that.
Doug Bollinger: A generation ago, Brett Schultz's left-arm pace caused India immense discomfiture on a tour of South Africa. Bollinger, who's as quick and more accurate, has had a similar impact since his introduction into this series, taking nine wickets at 19.33. The caught-and-bowled dismissal of Tendulkar was the big moment in the six-wicket romp in Guwahati, and there should certainly be enough bounce at the Navi Mumbai venue to keep him interested.
India have to make a choice. Do they opt to give the fringe players a chance, or do they focus on the victory that would claw back some pride? Had the series been won rather than lost, Sudeep Tyagi and Amit Mishra would certainly have been given outings. Mishra could yet play in place of Ravindra Jadeja, but Virat Kohli is unlikely to get a game, given how the frontline batsmen have struggled at times. Ishant Sharma could make a return with the Test series against Sri Lanka now just four days away.
India: (probable) 1 Sachin Tendulkar, 2 Virender Sehwag, 3 Gautam Gambhir, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 MS Dhoni (capt/wk), 7 Harbhajan Singh, 8 Praveen Kumar, 9 Amit Mishra, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Ashish Nehra.
With Mitchell Johnson and Shane Watson flying home on Tuesday night to get some rest ahead of the upcoming home season, Australia are certain to give one-day debuts to Andrew McDonald and Burt Cockley. There could also be an opportunity for Jon Holland, the left-arm spinner who has watched from the sidelines, while Nathan Hauritz has been the most economical bowler in the series.
Australia: (probable) 1 Shaun Marsh, 2 Adam Voges, Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Cameron White, 5 Michael Hussey, 6 Andrew McDonald, 7 Graham Manou (wk), 8 Clint McKay, 9 Jon Holland, 10 Doug Bollinger, 11 Burt Cockley.
Pitch and conditions
The DY Patil Stadium can seat 55,000 and has one of the best facilities in the country. Even the square was prepared with the help of 200 tonnes of soil flown in from South Africa. There should be enough pace and bounce to keep the quick bowlers interested, though no one can be certain how it will play given that it's the first international match at the venue. During the IPL final in 2008, the slow bowlers had some joy, and the batsmen also enjoyed an outfield where the ball raced to the ropes.
Rain is forecast for tomorrow and the overcast conditions should further encourage the seamers. India's practice session on the eve of the game was cancelled due to persistent showers.
Stats and trivia
- Australia have won two of the three one-day matches they've played in Mumbai. The loss came in the dead rubber in 2007.
- Michael Hussey averages 104.33 in the series and is the only batsman on either side with more than 300 runs.
- The top six for Australia have averaged 42.96 in the series so far, as opposed to India's 34.70
"Even though the series is won, it's not as if we're going to leave everyone out now and not worry too much about the last game. We feel we've started something here with this group, not only here but since the one day series in England, we've started to get a really good feeling around the group and I don't want to abandon that or let that go. It'd be nice to finish off on a winning note."
Ricky Ponting doesn't want to lose that winning feeling.
"We haven't backed the opportunities that we have got. A majority of the batsmen haven't contributed at the same time."
MS Dhoni sums up India's big problem in the series.
Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at Cricinfo